The Barber Shop

A barbershop philosopher/theologian talks about religion, current events, and issues concerning black america

Monday, May 29, 2006

More Thoughts...

The elements that make up your body are as old as the universe. No new matter has been created since the original creation. Your body is as old as the earth, the sun, and all the stars in the sky. It's simply recycled parts (elements) formed around your spark of life.

The next time you drink a cool refreshing glass of water, think about the fact that it's billions of years old and still tastes so good.

The creativity and ingenuity of God is amazing!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Part 1: How I Dug Out of Debt

One of the best things I’ve ever done financially was reprogram my mind to keep my regular monthly expenses to 60% or less of my net (take home) income. Ideally less than 50% is best but if you can get to 60% you will have done yourself a lot of good.

Now I already know some of you are thinking I must be smoking crack to suggest something like this because you can barely pay your bills with 100% of your net income. I have to honestly say I’ve been there and I know it’s hard, but it’s not impossible and you don’t need to win the lotto.

Not that many years ago I was broke and deep in debt. I didn’t have enough money to make ends meet. My car was breaking down all the time because I didn’t have enough money to fix it properly. On top of car problems I was constantly being harassed my creditors. I often had to borrow money from friends (humiliating) to get from one month to the next. To say the least, the experience was awful.

In my defense, I had taken on some financial responsibilities I probably shouldn’t have to help a family member, but that being said, I was still responsible for most of my bad circumstances.

There were two main reasons why I ended up in so much trouble. The first reason was I lacked financial discipline. The second reason was immaturity. I lacked the wisdom to know when I was taking too much on. There is a lesser third reason I will talk about next post that has to do with a funny thing people do when they’ve hit hard times to keep themselves there.

Before I move on I would like to recommend a small book I read back when I was in trouble called
THE RICHEST MAN IN BABYLON. It influenced me a lot and helped change my life. As a matter of fact, I liked the book so much I use to buy copies of it to give to people I cared about.

Moving on… As I said before I lacked discipline and I knew it. Because I knew I lacked financial discipline I chose to accept this about myself and tried to do things to work around it.

If you haven’t been blessed with the gift of discipline or no one has whipped it into you, don’t lie to yourself and think you can all the sudden be disciplined. YOU CAN’T!!! You have to acknowledge your deficiency and treat it like a mental illness. You also have to be honest and admit that you made a string of decisions that have lead you to the point you are at.

What did I do to work around my discipline problem?

The first thing I did was tried to stop impulse spending. At the time I had a job that had a lot of overtime available so I signed up for as much as I could and tried to stay at work as much as possible. I figured if I were working I wouldn’t have time to spend money. If my job hadn’t had overtime I would have taken a second job.

In addition to this step I would often go on spending fasts where I would deny myself certain things for periods of time in the hope of gaining more self-control.

I also set up a budget for myself with a fixed amount of spending money from each chech no matter how much more I brought home from overtime.

I set my paycheck up for direct deposit into my bank account so I wouldn’t have any cash around.

I set up a savings account that automatically withdrew from my paycheck a small amount each time I got paid. I had no debit cards, bankcards, or checks for the savings account. For some reason because the savings deduction was listed with the other deductions on the check it was easier for me to ignore it being taken out.

Growing a small savings account even if you’re in debt is important because it starts to get you used to having money around. It’s an important step in developing financial discipline.

I targeted my debt one bill at a time and used my overtime money and money from not spending to pay off my debt. As I paid each bill off I increased my spending allowance a little bit but put the bulk of the increase in my cash flow towards savings and debt relief.

I think it took about a year to erase my debt, but when I finally did I felt on top of the world.

As I said before I believe there were too main reasons why I got into trouble. The first was discipline and the second was immaturity or in other words foolishness.

I had a bad habit of biting off more than I could chew by fooling myself into believing unrealistic visions of how things would turn out. As a result I took on too much debt and too many responsibilities. I was like a small child trying to carry too many toys and dropping one with each step I took. The funny thing was I didn’t recognize this behavior in myself, a friend had to point it out to me.

Once I realized that what they were saying about me was true, I looked back over my time of struggle and realized how often I had jacked myself up by doing this. I realized I wasn’t being honest with myself about who I really was. I was making decisions based off the me of my imagination, not the me of my behavior.

Once I started making decisions based off the me of my behavior I started to make much better decisions; the book,
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about this idea. I wish I had read it before I went through my trouble years but I may have learned the lesson better through my struggle.

More to come…

Friday, May 19, 2006

Intro to Financial Balance

I talk about money a lot because the lack of financial knowledge and discipline it seems to be something that hurts a lot of us. I’m not a financial expert so I’m not going to be able to tell you how to invest your money. Instead my goal is to share a different way to look at your money and finances that has been very helpful to me.

I think one of the most important things we can do is share our knowledge. Much of the reason I started this blog was to have a place for me to collect my thoughts and ideas so that I would eventually have a body of work to share with my kids. If something happens to me I want them to know who I was, and I want them to take what I’ve learned and build on it.

That being said, over the next few post I’m going to lay out my thoughts on living a financial life in balance. I’ve started to write on this subject several time but never posted it. My goal now is to break up my ideas into small easy to write and read bites.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Thoughts...

Don’t let yourself be led by your emotions. Emotions are often selfish, fickle, and irrational. Acknowledging and analyzing your emotions is important for your mental and physical health, so I’m not saying ignore them. I’m saying don’t be led by them, because that’s not what they're for.

Instead, be led by the use of sound reason, time tested principles, and wise council.

Our emotions are far to short sighted and impulsive to be counted on as reliable guides for our lives. Following them often leads us into inappropriate situations, confrontations, and financial ruin.

A life led by principles is better than a life led by emotions.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cut Your Grass!!!

This message is for homeowners. Don’t buy a house if you don’t intend to take care of it or the yard. When your house or yard is all jacked up it lowers the property value of the neighborhood.

Why has my man down the street still not cut his grass this year??? His yard looks like the African Savanna. I keep waiting to see some lions and zebras up in all that tall grass. Thank God we have a homeowners association that will eventually force him to cut it.

We need to take as much pride in our houses and yards as we do in our clothes, hair, and cars.

Of the things we buy, houses are one of the few that are supposed to appreciate. When you buy a home and don’t maintain it you are cheating yourself out of thousands of dollars and hurting your community.

If you get too many poorly maintained houses in the same neighborhood it will get the reputation of being in decline and people will be afraid to invest their money there. The next thing you know the value of your house starts to fall and people start to sell just to cut their losses.

Soon investors move in and you have more renters in your neighborhood than homeowners. At this point hardly no one is left with a vested interest in the property values so they continue to slide due to neighborhood neglect.

Fear of this scenario is why I swear by homeowners associations and strong community groups. I don’t think I would move into a neighborhood that didn’t have one. If I did, I would have to organize one because I want to protect my investment and live in a neat and clean neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More Thoughts...

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

“Fail to plan, plan to fail” is one of my favorite sayings. I got it from a guy I worked with a few years ago and I have no idea where he got it. I like it because it’s short, simple, and extremely useful. It’s one of those sayings that help you to not be so disorganized and/or impulsive. It’s a simple reminder to always think things through. Another saying/idea that I have mentally attached to this one is ”begin with the end in mind.”

Begin With the End in Mind

I got “begin with the end in mind” from Stephen Covey’s book,
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is as simple as it sounds. Before you do anything consider how it might turn out. Beyond individual situations you can apply this idea to every aspect of your life. The reason for this is because it is more a way of thinking and approaching life than a phrase you say to yourself. Apply it to all the areas of your life, including your life as a whole. How do you want to be remembered? What will they say at your funeral?

I have found these two ideas to be some of the most useful in my life. They seem so simple that you might easily overlook their value, but if you take the time to really think deeply about them and apply them, many of you will see why I value them so much.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

About Fatherhood

I’m a proud father of two baby boys, an almost three-year-old and a one-year-old. Prior to becoming a dad I was kind of indifferent about having kids, because my dad was very distant when I was a kid so I guess I looked at children as being a burden to some extent.

In our popular culture a lot of brothers equate freedom and the "good life" to having little or no responsibilities. We’re taught to fear being “tied down” by anything, be it marriage, children, or too much hard work. Words like commitment, discipline, and responsibility have a subtle negative burdensome connotation to them, so even when we embrace some of these situations it’s often with a hint of mourning for our lost freedoms.

My parents were both very hard workers so I learned that from them and never looked at it as a burden, but as for marriage and children, I wasn’t exactly fired up. My parents divorced when I was younger, and I know a lot of shady people, so I didn’t have much faith in relationships. As for becoming a dad, I really didn’t have a good experience to go by. I knew what kind of dad I didn’t want to be, but that was about it. As a result of my experience, I wasn’t anti children, but I didn’t need to have them either.

Long story short, I ended up getting married (that’s a story for a different post) and having two children. I love my wife and kids very much, and the experience of having a family has changed me in a lot of ways. Trying to be a good husband and father takes some work, but it has been the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. It’s not like we don’t have our ups and downs, but because my wife and I are both willing to sacrifice and make compromises to make our relationship work, we have many more ups than downs. As for the kids, they can wear you out some times, but the joy they bring is more than worth every little sacrifice. Having a family has made my life so much more meaningful, rich and purposeful, that I often have to thank God for blessing me with them.

That feeling of enrichment that I get from my family leads me to the point of this post. The great joy I get from my family has caused me to develop a good deal of sadness for the state of our families in general, and the great loss and missed opportunities many of my brothers are unknowingly experiencing.

Far too many brothers are chasing a hollow and unfulfilling lie of a life-style. The illusion that parting, multiple women, money, and cars define the “good life” is fools-gold. It’s like eating candy. It tastes good but lacks all nutritional value. Where as a loving family is like a good home cooked meal. Just being a good dad to your kids by being involved in there lives on a regular basis would mean the world to them and pay you back life long dividends.

When my little two-year-old tells me he loves me, or my one-year-old smiles, bounces, and yells “Daa” to say hello, it’s priceless. There aren’t enough cars, women, parties or money in the world to replace that experience.

A life built around selfishness and materialism is no life at all. To be blessed with the privilege of caring for a little one is a gift to you from God. If you embrace the opportunity of fatherhood you will get so much more back from the experience than you could ever sacrifice. There is nothing else like it.

If your dad was absent from your life, please take the opportunity to break the cycle, and commit yourself to your kids. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to love or like their mother. You just need to love them by spending time with them. When you walk away from fatherhood everybody loses, but you most of all.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Virus Attack!!!

I recently put a link to Urban Dynamics on this site because I thought they had a black bloggers directory on a sister site of theirs. I put the link on my site so I could be listed on their directory. When I checked their site this morning it downloaded a bundle of viruses onto my computer. Needless to say I was pissed,and also concerned for any of you guys who might have clicked on that link.

If you clicked that link you may need to run a virus check on your computer.

I'm sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused you by posting that link. I was tricked.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Does the Catholic Church Care about Africa?

This article is from part of a book review I wrote on a Philip Jenkins work called The Next Christendom. I wont post the whole review because it’s too long, but I will say that it’s a very informative book although it can be a chore to read. I know this is a pretty long post, but if you read it I think you will learn some things you may not have known before.

In 2005, following the death Pope John Paul II, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze was considered to be a top candidate in the running for Pope. Although he did not get the position, many see a time soon coming when an African, Asian, or Latin American will assume the position as Pope. They believe this because of the explosive growth of the Catholic Church in the southern hemisphere.

In an April 5, 2005 article entitled, “
Global South as growing force in Catholic Church,” the Christian Science Monitor claimed that about two thirds of the worlds Catholics are located in the “south.” Christianity is rapidly growing in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Africa, at rates never seen before.

An article entitled, “Africa and Catholicism,” in the March 10, 2006 issue of the National Catholic Reporter stated that Catholic Church membership in Africa grew 6,708 percent (6,708%) from 1900 to 2000.

A Los Angles Times article entitled, “African Catholics Seek a Voice to Match their Growing Strength,” dated April 16, 2005 said that Nigerian Catholic Churches are overflowing even with five or six Masses on Sunday.

If priest shortages are considered a problem in North America and Europe they are a crisis in Africa and Latin America.

In Phillip Jenkins book, The Next Christendom, he states that North America and Europe have thirty-five percent of the believers and sixty-eight percent of the priests, while Latin America has forty-two percent of the believers but only twenty percent of the priests (Jenkins, 213).

The reality of the above statistics and situations made the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI’s first Cardinal selections this past March interesting if not controversial. Of the fifteen newly named Cardinals ten were from the U.S. or Europe, only one was from Africa, one from Latin America, and three from Asia. In selecting his Cardinals Pope Benedict simply maintained the status quo of two-thirds leadership from one third of the flock.

On the March 24, 2006 broadcast of NPR’s “All Things Considered” news program, a story entitled, “Benedict XVI Installs 15 New Cardinals,” suggested that this first round of Cardinal selections is reflective of Pope Benedict’s focus on revitalizing Europe and the U.S. and evangelizing Asia. Adding credibility to the story is the Catholic Church’s own peculiar practice of filling parish vacancies in the “north” with priests from the already desperately under staffed “south.”

In speaking about the lopsided Catholic leadership allocations Jenkins says, “The Devil himself could scarcely have planned it better (Jenkins, 213).” Currently about one-sixth of the priests serving in American parishes have been imported from other countries (Jenkins, 204). In the March 26, 2005 issue of the German magazine Spiegel, an article entitled, “The Pope’s Contradictions,” claimed that currently 1,400 of Germany’s priests are from Poland, India, and Africa.

Looking at this situation begs the question, “What about Africa?” Why is Pope Benedict seemingly ignoring an area of the world experiencing the highest conversion rates the Catholic Church has ever seen?

Why aren’t U.S. and European priests being sent down to Africa and Latin America where they are needed most?

Verbally the Pope may support the “south” but his resources are far from them. In Matthew 6:21 Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (NRSV).” This saying would seem to apply to Pope Benedict literally and figuratively. It appears that he is chasing money, at the expense of poor Africans and Latin Americans. My assumption is aided by Jenkins comment that the “North” provides a hugely disproportionate share of Church finances (Jenkins, 195).

Another factor influencing Pope Benedict’s decision-making process is most likely cultural.

The Catholic Church is dying in Europe and struggling in the U.S. According to the aforementioned Spiegel article, in Pope Benedict’s home country of Germany the number of newly ordained priests has dropped from 366 in 1990 to 161 in 2003. According to Jenkins, from the years 2000 to 2025, if current trends continue, Europe is projected to lose about ten million Catholics while Africa alone is projected to gain about one hundred million.

During the same time period the U.S. is only expected to gain ten million more Catholics, while Latin America is expected to add one hundred forty-five million to its number (Jenkins, 195).

Looking at these projections one must ask, “How does a church that is interested in saving all human souls, turn its back on the challenge of managing the unprecedented growth of the “south” by focusing the majority of its leadership and resources on the stagnant “North”?

If we look at the leadership of the Catholic Church we can begin to speculate about reasons, other than financial, for the focus on the “north” despite the overwhelming growth opportunity in the “south.”

The top leadership of the Catholic Church is primarily made up of the Pope and the Cardinal Deacons of the Roman Curia. The Curia is the Pope’s advisory and administrative branch of the Catholic Church. Of the thirty-two Cardinal Deacons that run the Roman Curia, twenty-three are from Europe, three are from the U.S., four are from Latin America, one is from Japan, and only one is from Africa.

With that large a European representation in the upper leadership of the church, heightened by the historical relationship the church and Europe have shared, it is only natural that the majority leadership would be worried about the status of its own backyard.

It must be troublesome to the Pope and the majority leadership to watch their homeland sink slowly into the hedonistic mire of secularism and materialism.

I believe it is clear that the majority leadership’s sentimental attachments to Europe and financial attachments to the U.S. are being allowed to overshadow their greater obligation to spread the good news and shepherd the flock of the willing.

Jenkins describes the current staffing policies of the Catholic Church as being at best shortsighted, and at worst suicidal for Catholic fortunes (Jenkins, 214). He declines to speculate about the motives of the Catholic leadership…

Interesting huh?